Phil Masinga 'almost quit Bafana'
A despondent Phil Masinga once attempted to walk away from Bafana Bafana following a torrent of abuse he suffered from intolerant fans, his friend Doctor Khumalo said yesterday, as South Africa mourned one of its greatest football heroes.
"The booing affected him greatly," said Khumalo, who played alongside Masinga in the national team for nearly a decade.
"He nearly quit international football. He was so down and depressed each time he was booed. One day we had to rally around him and support him - everyone in the camp from [team doctor] Victor Ramathesele, to coach Clive [Barker]. He felt so unloved and thought it would be best if he stopped playing for Bafana. But we told him we valued him and urged him to continue."
In their heyday, Khumalo and Masinga developed such a telepathy that most of the latter's 18 international goals came as a result of a breakthrough pass from the former.
"We had a great understanding," Khumalo said of the man who scored four goals as Bafana booked their ticket to World Cup 1998 in France.
"He actually made me look good, because he was a good finisher. He hated losing. I remember in the qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup, we lost to Congo [away] but the next match against Zaire [now DR Congo] in Lome, we both scored and won 2-1.
"He had so much confidence in me that even when he was playing for big teams like Leeds and Bari, he told me he could do with my assists there," Khumalo said.
Khumalo and Masinga first met in the early 1990s in Soweto, after the latter had joined Jomo Cosmos colts.
"He had just come in from the North West and Bra J [Jomo Sono] used to send his players to a high school in Orlando West. That's where I first met Phil.
"But we became closer in the national team."
The current state of Bafana, where they are struggling to qualify for international tournaments, hurt him deeply.
"Following our draw with Libya [last year] he called me early on a Sunday morning, saying surely as legends we must do something. It hurt him that our national players were simply not giving their all. He said he was sad that the team lacked spark and called for us to intervene."